Pope Francis speaks at the opening of the World Meeting of Families in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 12:10 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Catholic marriage is a gift, not just a formality or rule.

“Marriage is not a formality to be fulfilled. You don’t get married to be Catholic ‘with the label,’ to obey a rule, or because the Church says so, or to throw a party,” the pope said at the opening event of the World Meeting of Families on June 22.

“You get married,” he continued, “because you want to base your marriage on the love of Christ, which is as firm as a rock.”

“We can say that when a man and a woman fall in love, God offers them a gift: marriage. A wonderful gift, which has in it the power of divine love: strong, enduring, faithful, able to recover after any failure or fragility,” Francis said. 

The World Meeting of Families 2022 opened with a Festival of Families in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. The event featured a performance by Italian operatic rock trio Il Volo.

Pope Francis and around 2,000 families from around the world also listened to the testimonies of married couples and individuals with stories of overcoming incredible challenges or of serving others.

The 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families, which ends on June 26, includes three days of talks from lay Catholics on subjects related to marriage and the family. Mass and Eucharistic adoration are also on the schedule.

Pope Francis told families: “In marriage Christ gives himself to you, so that you have the strength to give yourselves to each other.”

“Take courage, then, family life is not an impossible mission,” he added. “With the grace of the sacrament, God makes it a wonderful journey to be taken together with him, never alone.”

“Family is not a beautiful ideal, unattainable in reality. God guarantees his presence in marriage and family, not only on your wedding day but throughout your life. And he sustains you every day in your journey,” Francis said.